Freightliner, which is part of the Daimler Trucks group, has become the first heavy truck manufacturer to obtain the right to test autonomous vehicles in the state of Nevada. The company’s first conception of semi-autonomous truck, called Inspiration Truck, was unveiled at a special event last Wednesday. At the event held on the Hoover Dam, the experimental truck was given an official autonomous vehicle license plate by the governor of Nevada.
The semi-autonomous 18-wheeler is using Daimler’s Highway Pilot autonomous driving technology, developed and shown last year on the Autobahn as the Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025. The Highway Pilot uses a combination of short and long range front radar that scans the road up to 800 feet ahead for obstacles; a front-facing stereo camera that reads lane lines; collision avoidance, speed control, braking, steering, and general road keeping, in other words the adaptive cruise control that is already on standard Freightliner trucks.
The concept offers a rather limited version of autonomy. There’s a driver behind the wheel. Once on the highway, the driver presses the High Pilot button and the system takes over, maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles, staying in its lane and adjusting top speed to comply with posted limits. The truck won’t pass slower vehicles on its own. When it’s time to exit the highway, the driver has to take over. When there’s a situation that the system can’t handle, it will alert the driver via beeps and icons in the dashboard that it is time for them to take over. If the driver doesn’t react by taking control within about five seconds, the truck will slow down and stop.
According to a research, 330,000 large trucks are involved in crashes that kill nearly 4,000 people per year in the US. 90 percent of truck crashes are caused by driver error, and driver fatigue plays a role in 1/8th of those crashes.
The self-driving Inspiration Truck is meant to help reduce stress and fatigue on the highway by taking over driver’s duties when needed. In addition to the safety and driver-fatigue, Freightliner cites also fuel economy as reason to pursue autonomous features in trucks.
Would you trust this Freightliner Inspiration next to your car?